Sunday, September 8, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1937 (starts 9/9/19)

    This week we've got the post Labor Day blues, with classics from Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and Blind Faith supporting our showpiece of the week: the entire first side of John Mayall's Blues From Laurel Canyon (featuring a 17-year-old Mick Taylor on guitar).

Artist:     Jethro Tull
Title:     A New Day Yesterday
Source:     CD: Stand Up
Writer:     Ian Anderson
Label:     Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:     1969
     A New Day Yesterday is the opening track from the second Jethro Tull album, Stand Up. Although founding member Mick Abrahams (a guitarist with strong ties to the British blues scene) had just left the band, the tune still shows a blues influence in it's tempo and basic riff. Even then, though, bandleader and composer Ian Anderson was not content to stick to the conventional blues progression. Over the years Tull would continue to move further away from its beginnings as a British blues band.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Be Careful With A Fool
Source:    British import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s):    King/Josea
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Johnny Winter's first album for Columbia (his second overall) is nothing less than a blues masterpiece. Accompanied by bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, Winter pours his soul into classics like B.B. King's Be Careful With A Fool, maybe even improving on the original (if such a thing is possible).

Artist:     Blind Faith
Title:     Presence of the Lord
Source:     LP: Blind Faith
Writer:     Eric Clapton
Label:     Polydor
Year:     1969
     When the album Blind Faith first came out, several critics questioned why Steve Winwood sang lead on Presence Of The Lord instead of the song's composer, guitarist Eric Clapton. Many went so far as to say Clapton should have sung the tune, but after countless subsequent recordings of Clapton singing Presence of the Lord over the years, it's kind of refreshing to go back and hear Winwood's original interpretation.

Artist:    John Mayall
Title:    Blues From Laurel Canyon-part one
Source:    European import CD: Blues From Laurel Canyon
Writer(s):    John Mayall
Label:    Decca
Year:    1968
    In July of 1968, in the middle of a concert tour of Germany, John Mayall made a decision to disband his group The Bluesbreakers, which at this point in time had seven members. After finishing out the band's live commitments, Mayall then got to work on assembling a new, smaller band consisting of himself on keyboards and vocals, Stephen Thompson on bass, Colin Allen on drums, and 17-year-old Mick Taylor on guitar. Once the new group was formed, Mayall promptly left London for a three-week stay in Southern California's Laurel Canyon, where he met several like-minded musicians, including Frank Zappa and the members of Canned Heat, as well as some of L.A.'s more famous groupies. While there he began chronicling his visit by way of a series of songs that would become his next album, Blues From Laurel Canyon. The first of these, Vacation, sets the stage for what is to follow and showcase's Taylor's guitar work. From there it's Walking On Sunset, a paeon to one of L.A.'s most famous boulevards. Laurel Canyon home describes his temporary abode, while 2401 describes a visit to the organized chaos of the Zappa household. The final three songs on side one, Ready To Ride, Medicine Man and Somebody's Acting Like A Child tell the tale of a romantic interlude, and are among Mayall's strongest material. Recorded in early August of 1968, the album was released in November, and helped cement Mayall's reputation as the godfather of British blues.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Red House (1969 studio version)
Source:    CD: Valleys Of Neptune
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy
Year:    1969
    There have been many versions of Red House recorded over the years. The earliest version, recorded in late 1966, featured Noel Redding playing his bass line on a slightly detuned acoustic guitar rather than an actual bass guitar. That version was released on the original 1967 European release of Are You Experienced, but left off the US version of the LP. Two years later an alternate take from the same sessions, remixed into stereo, was included on the US version of the Smash Hits album. That same year (1969) the Jimi Hendrix Experience entered the studio to record an entirely new version of the tune. This version, done without any overdubs, runs far longer than any other studio recording of Red House, clocking in at over eight minutes. It was also one of the last recordings made by the original Experience, at a time when tensions within the group (particularly between Redding and Hendrix) were interfering with the creative process. Sadly, this version of Red House falls apart just as the last verse is getting underway; accordingly, the producers of Valleys Of Neptune chose to fade the song out as it crashes and burns.

Artist:    Santana
Title:    You Just Don't Care
Source:    LP: Santana
Writer(s):    Santana (band)
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1969
    Santana started off as a jam band, with little formal song structure. When it came time to record their first album, however, the group realized that they would have to have actual songs, and began coming up with the various pieces that would make up the 1969 LP Santana. Among those more structured pieces is You Just Don't Care. Although credited to the entire band, I can't help but think it was mostly the work of keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie.

Artist:    Humble Pie
Title:    Stone Cold Fever
Source:    CD: Rock On
Writer(s):    Ridley/Marriott/Shirley/Frampton
Label:    A&M/Rebound
Year:    1971
    Although not released as a single, the most popular song on Humble Pie's fourth LP, Rock On, was Stone Cold Fever, which got extensive airplay on FM rock radio. The tune was written by the entire band, including guitarist Peter Frampton, who would leave Humble Pie soon after the album was released to form his own band, Peter Frampton's Camel.

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